Monday, August 20, 2012

Intense fighting rages in Syria's city of Aleppo

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian government forces on Monday marked the second day of a major Muslim holiday with heavy shelling of the cities of Aleppo and Daraa and a suburb of the capital Damascus, killing up to 30 people, rights groups and activists said.
Monday's is the second day of the Eid Al-Fitr, a three-day holiday that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims refrain from food, water and other worldly pleasures from dawn to dusk.
During Al-Eid, Muslims the world over celebrate by wearing new clothes, feasting on sumptuous food and visiting the graves of loved ones. Monday's fighting, however, shows the regime is not letting up on its drive to quell the nation's 18-month-old uprising out of respect for the occasion.
Activists reported no signs of jubilation across the battered nation, with smaller-than-usual turnout for the traditional Al-Eid prayer on the first day and an air of gloom descending on major cities.
Anti-regime activists say some 20,000 people have been killed since the uprising began in March 2011.
The fighting comes a day after the U.N.'s new envoy to Syria acknowledged that he had no concrete ideas to end the conflict and that his mission would be difficult without a unified position by the U.N. Security Council.
"The problem is not what I can do differently, it is how others are going to behave differently," Lakhdar Brahimi told The Associated Press at his Paris home on Sunday.
"If they spoke in one voice and were clearly supportive of what I will be doing on their behalf, that is what I need," Brahimi said of what he seeks from the Security Council. "Without a unified voice from the Security Council, I think it will be difficult," the former Algerian foreign minister added.
The rights groups and activists said shelling on Monday by tanks and warplanes caused two houses to collapse in Aleppo, Syria's largest city, killing at least 14 people. The buildings were in the Al-Sakhour and Qadi Askar neighborhoods, said activist Mohammed Saeed, reached by Skype inside the city.
Aleppo has been the scene of daily battles for several weeks now, with forces loyal to President Bashar Assad trying to wrest control from the rebels but without making much headway.
Saeed also said that fighting raged inside the city with rebel forces making advances in the districts of Al-Jadidah and Maadi Telal.
The reports from the activists and groups — the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Local Coordination Committees — could not be independently verified.
In the southern city of Daraa, birthplace of the anti-regime uprising in March, 2011, intense fighting between government troops and rebels killed six people, including two children and two women, the groups said.
An activist in the Damascus area, El-Said Mohammed, said seven people were killed and at least 70 wounded when government forces shelled the town of Moadamiyeh with tanks and mortars. He said the defection on Sunday to the rebels' side of some 30 troops along with a tank from army forces in the area may have been behind Monday's shelling.
Mohammed spoke by Skype from the greater Damascus area. His information could not be verified, but the Observatory said the shelling in Moadamiyeh killed at least 10 civilians and three rebels.
Brahimi, the new U.N. envoy, was named Friday to replace former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan as peace envoy to Syria. He served as a U.N. envoy in Afghanistan and Iraq and helped negotiate the end of Lebanon's civil war as an Arab League envoy.
He said Annan's mission failed "because the international community was not as supportive as he needed them to be."
Russia and China have used their veto power at the Security Council to block strong Western- and Arab-backed action against the regime of Syria's Assad.
Brahimi was travelling to New York Sunday. Later he will go to Cairo for meetings with the Arab League.

Paul Ryan's Cuba Crossover and What It Means in a Romney Administration...

Does anyone truly believe that Rep. Paul Ryan (now the Republicans' candidate for Vice President), a dyed-in-the-wool free trader who repeatedly voted to oppose the U.S. embargo of Cuba, switched his position after he "spent time learning the true nature of the Castro regime" as Romney-Ryan campaign surrogate and Cuban American Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen put it. Really? The guy who told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 2002 that he believed Castro uses U.S. policy to "repress his people," didn't understand the repressive nature of the regime? In his own words:
"If we think engagement works well with China, well, it ought to work well with Cuba . . . The embargo doesn't work. It is a failed policy. It was probably justified when the Soviet Union existed and posed a threat through Cuba. I think it's become more of a crutch for Castro to use to repress his people. All the problems he has, he blames the American embargo."
Ryan said at that time that the "more we have a free exchange of people and ideas and customs, the more the people of Cuba will be exposed to the values of freedom and liberty."
Ryan acknowledged in the 2002 interview that Cuban-Americans "have their reasons" for supporting the embargo "and they're very passionate about their reasons, I just don't agree with them and never have."
The media may not be interested in pursuing the matter further, but Cuba watchers on both sides of the spectrum understand perfectly well what happened. Paul Ryan did not come to Jesus. He reluctantly fell in line with leadership in the House on this one - at least when it came to votes beginning in 2007 - because it wasn't worth the fight. And House leadership fell in line with Ileana and Lincoln because they are as loyal and fierce as legislators come, but understand this: one thing matters to them above all else - Cuba sanctions. It's plain Ryan doesn't actually believe the policy works, as he couldn't even be bothered to offer new talking points to the same paper in 2008 - after he had the come-to-Jesus moment with his Cuban American colleagues.  It's also plain that Cuban American lawmakers don't believe Ryan's change of heart either, and even complained off the record to the Miami Herald that Cuban American voters won't appreciate Marco Rubio's being passed over for a guy with Ryan's spotty record on Cuba.
Does all of this mean Paul Ryan secretly intends to lobby from inside a Romney administration to lift the Cuba embargo? Hardly. No more, in fact, than did Barack Obama, who offered this unequivocal rejection of the embargo he now owns and even reauthorizes every September. Because, whereas as legislators like Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balarts care about nothing so much as they care about Cuba, the Ryans and Obamas care about everything (bigger) else.
So what does having an outed anti-embargo-logue in a Romney White House mean for the policy? Normally I'd say not much, other than that Ryan will be the one to head off any truly crazy notions emanating from Rep. Ros-Lehtinen's Foreign Affairs Committee, especially ones that infringe on Americans' already tightly-constrained rights to trade and interact with the Cuban people.
But then again, Ryan's going to care about a lot more than Cuba, and he and Romney will need to barter for all the votes they can muster in what promises to be a divided Republican caucus next Congress. If anything, it simply means, if they win the White House, Paul Ryan's in for a lot of frustration. 
Tina Brown's NEWSWEEK's new cover and accompanying article is quite a bit titillating.
Poor MSM ... And they have so much invested in him. So much...

Cuban police use beatings, pepper spray to arrest 3 anti-Castro activists (UDPATED)...

August 15, 2012

Cuban human rights group reports more than 200 political arrests in first two weeks of August

The Centro de Información Hablemos Press, or CIHPRESS, human rights group/independent news agency Wednesday sounded the alarm about what it described as a sudden increase in repression in Cuba. So far in August, the group reports that the Castro police have made more than 200 political arrests of its opponents.
In many instances, the police moved violently against dissidents, delivering beatings and confiscating computers, paper and ink, newspapers and other items, said CIHPRESS, as it tried to generate attention from international organizations for what is happening.
Specifically, CIHPRESS again requested that Amnesty International designate two political prisoners, Sonia Garro and Niurka Luque, as prisoners of conscience.
In most instances, those arrested this month have been released after a few hours or a few days, a sort of low-intensity repression by the Raul Castro regime designed to evade intense scrutiny while still making it clear that the government does not tolerate dissent.
CIHPRESS also said it has information on at least 23 activists being held as political prisoners.
They are:

1.   Sonia Garro Alfonso.
2.   Niurka Luque Álvarez.
3.   Antonio Michel Lima Cruz.
4.   Marco Maykel Lima Cruz.
5.   Ariel Eugenio Arzuaga Peña.
6.   Luis Enrique Labrador Díaz.
7.   David Piloto Barceló. 
8.   Eider Frometa Allen.
9.   Dani López de Moya.
10.   Jorge Vázquez Chaviano.
11.    Abismael González González.
12.    Bismarck Mustelier Galán.
13.     Rolando Tudela Iribar.
14.     Ángel Frometa Lovaina.
15.    Niorvis Rivera Guerra.
16.    Rogelio Tavío López.
17.    Eugenio Hernández Hernández.
18.     Ernesto Paula Pérez.
19.     Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González.
20.     Pavél Arcia Céspedes.
21.     Pedro Luis González.
22.     Orlando Triana González.
23.      Omar Naranjo Bonne.
You can learn more about some of them by clicking on their names on the right.
Niurka Luque ySonia Garro 2012 (1)


Israel deploys Iron Dome on Egypt border 

Police issue new London riot CCTV shots

 Assange Standoff: Hands off Ecuador!:

Pakistan leader seeks report on young girl’s blasphemy case

Breaking: Authorities say 'Top Gun' director Tony Scott dies after jumping off Los Angeles County bridge - @AP


GOP Senate candidate says he ‘misspoke’ with ‘legitimate rape’ comment

FILE - This May 17, 2011 file photo shows U.S. Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., announcing his candidacy …Sen. Claire McCaskill is probably having a pretty good Sunday. Her opponent in the Missouri Senate race, Republican Rep. Todd Akin, has spent most of the day backtracking after saying that victims of "legitimate rape" cannot biologically become pregnant and thus do not need access to legal abortions.
"First of all, from what I understand from doctors [pregnancy after rape] is really rare," Akin told KTVI-TV in defense of his stand that rape victims should not be allowed to access abortions. "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."
Akin said that even if a rape victim does somehow become pregnant, "I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child."
A parody account mocks Akin. (Twitter)
Akin's comments sparked a big backlash on Twitter, where the hashtag "#legitimaterape" soon became one of the most popular terms on the site. A parody account bearing Akin's headshot mocked the Congressman for his comments. McCaskill, meanwhile, also went on the attack. "As a woman and former prosecutor who handled hundreds of rape cases, I'm stunned by Rep. Akin's comments," she wrote.
Akin said in a statement that he "misspoke" in the interview. "In reviewing my off-the-cuff remarks, it's clear that I misspoke in this interview and it does not reflect the deep empathy I hold for the thousands of women who are raped and abused every year," he said. He later wrote on Twitter that "all of us understand that rape can result in pregnancy & I have great empathy for all victims. I regret misspeaking." (Indeed, a study in the American Journal of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that rapes result in more than 32,000 pregnancies each year.)
McCaskill's campaign spent $2 million to run ads that boosted Akin as the "true conservative" during the three-way primary race for the Republican nod, which he won by six percentage points. McCaskill considered him the weakest potential challenger and wanted him to win the primary, the New York Times reported. The Democratic senator is trailing Akin by about 8 points in the polls, according to TPM's Polltracker.